Say “No” to Bulgarian Cheese (Confused?) Read on.
This is a trying undertaking: different currency, a Cyrillic alphabet and mannerisms that will befuddle the most avid traveler. Try and ask a Bulgarian conductor, “Is this the train to Sofia?” and be answered with a shake of the head. Why? “No” means “Yes.” A nod means no.
Take on the challenge of traveling to an area of Europe that is becoming more popular thanks to affordability and a culture still largely untouched by our Western ways.
There is a real ethnic diversity in Bulgaria, including many Greek influences. This is a peaceful region, except you’ll find verbal wars over cultural traditions. Ask any Greek who reigns over the name Feta, the prized white cheese, and they’ll tell you it’s solely theirs. But Bulgarian Feta, known as Serene, is created and eaten all over the country. It’s in traditional dishes, like the shopska salada, and includes lots of veggies (and don’t dare call it a Greek salad.)
And just as the Greeks have a tradition of flaky pastry (baklava, anyone?) so do the Bulgarians. Hit up a bakery or street vendor in Sofia for a sirenka, sweet bread filled with the creamy goodness, or enjoy a banitsa, a savory blend of sirene and meat.
Sofia is a relatively young world capital, and showcases a youthful exuberance (evident in their musical talents on display during Eurovision.) See the sights here, including the futuristic National Palace of Culture in the city center. Home to concerts, movies, fairs and festivals, the palace won second-place at the 2010 APEX awards for “Best Convention Center.” Then set out to see the rest of beautiful Bulgaria.
Take a day trip to the 1000-year-old Rila Monastery or the cultural city of Plovdiv with its 2nd century Roman Ancient Theater. Sunbathe on the Black Sea in the coastal towns of Varna or Burgas. Come before the crowds discover this Balkan gem.
Bulgaria may not be on your bucket list right now – but just wait. 2011 could be its breakout year, where a pretty young thing wows the crowd at Eurovision and tables across America discover the sublime flavor of Sirene.
Come have a taste.